Monday, 18 August 2014

Life-sized Saint's Skull

Heya folks, I know mostly this site deals with inch and a bit high little men but it is not the only thing I paint. Quite often I am fabricating props and costume bits for the LRP game I help run. This time, it was quite a lot of painting so I thought I'd share with the group.

I was making a jewelled skull of a venerated saint for my players to, well, loot... The starting point was an old plastic skull (roughly life size) from the front of a kids anatomy magazine. The whole thing was the colour of the teeth and had a split all the way around the cranium as though lobotomised (there was a brain in a future episode or something). It needed to look a lot more... bony. First I removed the teeth and cleaned all the mould lines from the skull and each tooth. The teeth went to one side and I primed the skull white. Next a basecoat of VMA Hemp was airbrushed over the whole thing. This gave a decent analogue for old bone colour. The sockets and deep shadows were darkened with VMA Camouflage Black Brown and the highlights were just Hemp mixed with white.

At this point I reinserted the teeth and washed some canopy glue (strong but thin PVA that dries crystal clear) into the roots to cement them in place. Once this dried I washed AK Fresh Mud all over it and then sponged it off the high points with kitchen paper damped with Odourless Turpentine. This gives the dirt, the cranial sutures, the plaque on the teeth. Everything in one quick wipe. Finally I acquired some edge trim from a haberdashery (love that word, technically Hobbycraft) which had nicely shaped plastic dangly bits in a leafy sort of shape. These were detached from the trim and hot glued into position to hide the split in the plastic cranium in a laurel-ish wreath. Vallejo Liquid Metal Old Gold coloured any exposed hot glue and gave a nicer lustre to the cheap plasticky gold. A final wash of some reddish-brown oil paints thinned with the odourless turps and the edges wiped down again. Oils take a day or so to dry fully so there is a lot of time for mucking around with it.

I wanted the skull nicely presented but was low on budget. Poking around a cheapy department store called The Range I found a nice little decorative chest. Horrible fabric but decent construction and the right size. Airbrushed black over the fabric erased that faux-urbane pattern and made a sombre reliquary. Needed some work inside though:

Pro-tip, if you want to make something like this yourselves? Scatter cushions are the cheapest source of fancy fabrics and come with the bonus of having all the padding you need included for free. I Evostick-d the fabric into the top edge of the box with a decent amount of cushion stuffing in there to support the skull. Job done!

Hope you enjoyed this departure from the norm, more models next time!



  1. Well, that's a small world... I played that game back when it was Shards, back in the day...

    1. ha! Small world indeed! I joined in 2003 (Day of the Sepsis) and kinda got drawn in gradually until I wound up on the team bit by bit :)